Unification News for November 2003

The Inaugural Meeting of the Middle East Interreligious and International Regional Peace Council (MERPC)

Frank Kaufmann
November 2003

On September 22, 2003, approximately 40 key leaders from the Middle East (predominantly from Israel) gathered for a ceremonial launch of the Middle East Regional Peace Council (MERPC). The event transpired in the context of a crowded day of interfaith and peace activities. All participants present were active throughout the day’s events. These included the historic and miraculous "Peace Under One God, Jerusalem Peace Walk," a symposium for harmony among the faiths in the family of Abraham, and an evening banquet and celebration of multi-faith song, dance, and testimonials. The MERPC inaugural occurred simultaneously with the interfaith symposium.

The Middle East has a number of distinct challenges to function as a "region" due to the unusually intense hostilities among many of the nations in the region. The geopolitical reality makes it virtually impossible for peace-seekers from diverse nations to gather together to share, to learn, to mutually educate, and to work together for common cause. No one nation in the region can serve as an ideal venue for such peace pursuits, since residents from some countries are always forbidden to travel to others. Due to the convenience and benefit of associating with a wonderful interreligious and international event for peace (the Peace Walk, and the symposium), the inaugural for the MERPC transpired in Israel. For the council to function legitimately, regional meetings will have to occur in all countries of the region, and ultimately solutions must be found to the dissolving the calcified and debilitating postures, which keep the nations of the region so radically apart.

To accommodate this current obstacle we solicited and received statements from several countries in the region, (Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan in particular) which are to stand formally in the record of this inaugural meeting, and so that the seminal moments of this regional Peace Council can be defined as having greater integrity than would come from convening just the important peacemakers who could by serendipity, be present at the time of the meeting.

Two other documents were confirmed at the meeting as well. These are relevant portions of the draft charter of the North American RPC, as well as relevant portions of an introductory statement from IIFWP headquarters, presented as a supplement to invitation materials for the October 1 ˆ 4, 2003 inaugural meeting of the Interreligous and International Peace Council, held in New York City. These latter two documents were presented to all gathered as guidelines and general principles designed to help introduce the essential vision, concept, and purposes of this new project.

In addition to the documentary record of the meeting, several assigned, as well as impromptu speakers expressed their thoughts, hopes, and recommendations for the council. Dr. Frank Kaufmann chaired the meeting, and functioned as its moderator. Dr. Kaufmann used his brief speaking time to give an historical background on the evolution of regional councils, as well as to help veterans of IIFWP grasp how this emerging effort is distinct from extant efforts, which bear similar vision and purpose.

Speakers on the dais included, Reverend Hee Sun Ji (IIFWP regional coordinator), Reverend Masatoshi Abe (IIFWP representative for Israel), Professor Eliezer Glaubach (Former City Councilman for the City of Jerusalem), Imam Haitham Bundakji (President and Imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, CA), and Rabbi Moshe Chen of Jerusalem, and Archimandrite Abuna Hatoum of Nazareth. These particular individuals were chosen as presenters for this session for two reasons: 1. Their longstanding involvement, commitment, and understanding of the mission and vision of the IIFWP, and 2. The fact that they represent the three major faiths of the region, which must ultimately must harmonize and take the lead in restoring peace and loving relations in the region. In addition to the representatives of the three predominant religions in the region, remarks were also delivered by IIFWP president Sheikh Ali Bihrani of the Druze faith (a central faith to the region, but one often overlooked despite its significance both spiritually and politically in Middle Eastern affairs).

Following the remarks of the moderator, as well as the designated presenters representing the faiths of the region, many participants added their commentary, encouragement and advice. Several of these speakers are long time associates and contributors to the international, peace work of the IIFWP, as well as individuals who occupy prominent and influential positions in society. Elected officials, ambassadors, ministers in the government, as well as religious and spiritual leaders all contributed in substantial ways to the deliberations marking this inaugural meeting.

At the time of this writing, ongoing work for the MER IIPC, is ongoing in the US, Israel, and in a harmonious, peace team of major Arab nations.

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